Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) has closed all roads linking its areas in the Idlib de-escalation zone with the Turkish-occupied area of Afrin, the Syrian news outlet, Enab Baladi, reported on January 30.
The two main closed roads are Atme-Deir Ballut and Deir Samaan-al-Ghazzawiyya. Civilians use these roads on a daily basis for transportation and shipping.
“There is no open road between Afrin and the western countryside [of Aleppo], hundreds of cars have been stopped there since yesterday,” the outlet’s report said.
The closure of the roads was not a surprise at all. Two days ago, HTS closed all the crossing with Afrin. A security commander in the group justified the step by claiming that ISIS fighters, who are escaping from the middle Euphrates River Valley, are trying to reach HTS’ areas in the governorate of Idlib.
“According to information, which we received from several sources, many groups of the Islamic State are heading towards Idlib from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the Olive Branch areas,” al-Saleh told HTS’s news network, Iba’a.
ISIS cells carried out a series of attacks on HTS in Idlib during the last few weeks. In the most recent attack, a female suicide bomber blew herself up outside the headquarters of HTS’s Salvation Government in the city of Idlib killing at least two militants.
HTS is not only trying to prevent ISIS fighters from reaching Idlib, but also to counter the Turkish influence in its areas, according to local observers, who believe that these attempts will likely fail.